Difficult Conversations Don’t Have to Lead to Hurt Feelings

One of the things I’ve learned in my career as a Marketing and Product Development Executive and Entrepreneur is that difficult conversations are often necessary and productive.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “difficult conversations” the first things that spring to mind are images of people arguing and going away with hurt feelings. That should never happen. The key is focusing on conversation, which infers a meaningful exchange of dialogue. Arguments are hardly ever about that—they’re more about who can speak loudest or toss out the most hurtful barbs. Conversations, on the other hand, are all about articulating a position, listening for and hearing feedback, and responding to what you’ve heard. They are constructive exchanges (at least they should be).

As adults, we’d all like to think we’ve got this “difficult conversation” thing licked, that we’re not about to avoid saying what needs saying, and that we can do so in a constructive, civil, and gracious manner. We may be adults, but we’re still people, and with that comes emotions and fears—all of which can be overcome with the proper mindset about difficult conversations.

About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog on the topic, complete with some handy tips on how you and a colleague, loved one, family member, or even a complete stranger can engage in a difficult—yet constructive—conversation. Enjoy!

Tough Conversations Can Be Difficult—Even Fierce—But They’re Worth It

(Originally posted on March 27, 2013)

It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear. After all, politicians do it all the time (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). But what about what people need to hear, whether it’s good news or bad, or something in-between? What about those “tough” conversations, which some might even call “fierce”?


I don’t know anybody who enjoys a tough conversation, whether you’re the originator or the recipient of one. Most of us seem to go out of our way to avoid them. Maybe we’re hoping issues will resolve themselves or simply go away if left alone long enough; maybe we’re embarrassed that circumstances have led us to the point where a “fierce” conversation is necessary; or maybe we’re simply uncomfortable speaking frankly with a friend, loved one, or business associate. We fear we’ll make matters worse or tarnish a relationship that’s important to us  . . . or simply don’t know where (or how) to start.

Of course avoidance never really works. Avoidance tends to make issues fester, expand, and grow far worse than if we had simply addressed them early on, making the inevitable difficult conversation even tougher.

What is a tough conversation?

As with most things, what makes a conversation “tough” or “difficult” is all a matter of perspective. What’s difficult for one person, may not be for another. In general, I define a tough or difficult conversation as any exchange with another person that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious.

This includes conversations with . . .

  • Your boss, business partner, member of your team, or direct report
  • Your clients, vendors, suppliers, and/or independent contractors
  • Colleagues, competitors, and other business associates
  • Your spouse or significant other
  • A sibling, parent, child, or other family member
  • Friends and neighbors
  •  . . . and even the paperboy or girl!

You get the picture. Difficult or fierce conversations encompass all aspects of our lives. They are not just professional or just personal. They can be both.

For example . . .

  • Maybe you didn’t understand an assignment, or didn’t think your boss explained a project clearly or has reasonable expectations of you.
  • Maybe you delegated work to a direct report and aren’t fully satisfied with results-to-date or the quality of the work.
  • Maybe you feel as though your business partner is trying to do too much (or too little) and you want your partner to stick to what he or she does best.
  • Maybe your child or spouse or friend or family member is engaging in behavior that you find troubling and that you fear will jeopardize your relationship with him or her, or worse his or her well-being.

All of these scenarios (as well as countless others) are ripe for difficult conversations, especially if there are patterns of behavior you’ve been meaning to address. But where do you begin?

  • First, realize that a difficult/fierce conversation is about being upfront and direct about an issue or situation that needs addressing.
  • Invite a friend, loved one, or business associate to have a conversation with you. State the purpose of the conversation, “We need to talk about (the behavior/situation/issue).”
  • Be clear about your purpose for the conversation, “I want to understand (why, what you meant)” or “I want to address (something that happened)” or “I want to clear up a misunderstanding about (an issue or situation or person).”
  • Share how the situation or issue is affecting you or someone else. Be specific about how you or someone close to you has been impacted. Use examples, such as “When you said (this) it made me do/feel (this way)” or “When you (acted this way) it caused me (or someone else) to (do this).”
  • Confirm the other person’s intent relative to the situation or issue, such as, “When you said or did (this), did you mean (for this) to happen? What was your intention?”
  • Make a request to resolve the issue or situation and ask the person to commit to it. For example, “I’m asking that (the behavior/situation) stop. Is this something you can agree to?”

Remember, a difficult conversation is NOT an argument. You’re not trying to prove you’re right and that someone else is wrong, nor are you trying to be confrontational, judgmental, or engage in editorializing. You are simply trying to understand why something happened and say what you need to say and get your point across in a way so that the other person listens.

Bringing key issues to light and addressing misconceptions and misunderstandings early on can help keep everyday issues manageable before they become lingering, long-term distractions. In the long run, having tough conversations actually does the opposite of what we fear the most. They do NOT destroy relationships, rather they build and cement stronger bonds . . . and it all starts with being upfront and genuine. See, that wasn’t so tough now, was it?

For more on this subject, check out Susan Scott’s book, Fierce Conversations.

Susan Scott talking about Fierce Conversation!

When is the last time you were upfront and direct about an issue or situation that needed addressing? When is the last time someone was upfront and direct with you? What difficult conversations have you had? Which have you avoided and why?

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Jumpstart Those Creative Juices

Whether you’re a prolific novelist, journalist, musician, poet, or blogger, I’ve got to believe one of the worst feelings in the world for a writer is to have writer’s block—to struggle to find the words when the words have always seemed to be there before. Ditto for content marketers, when the lifeblood of their businesses depends on the content they generate and the value they add to their customer experience.

Pretty Sweet Content Campaign!

When a blog is due, when your social media channels beckon for content that’s fresh and useful but the words and the ideas just aren’t there, where do you turn?

Luckily, there are some proven approaches to jumpstarting the creative juices. I even wrote about it a few years back. Here’s that blog again. Enjoy!

Tips and Techniques for Overcoming “Content Block”

(Originally posted on June 13, 2012)

Sometimes ideas just pop into our heads. Intuitively, we seem to know what to say or write about our product or service, or some incredible insight we want to share with the world. The ideas and words come freely, easily, as though they’re on auto-pilot.

Then there are other times when the ideas don’t flow or, if we have ideas, we can’t seem to find the words. This is what I call “content block.” Similar to writer’s block, when staring at a blank screen or empty sheet of paper sends even the most prolific of wordsmiths into a funk, content block is when you have something to sell, market, or communicate but you can’t come up with the words for your regular newsletter, blog, social media post, or that presentation tomorrow at your local chamber of commerce! There’s just nothing cooking, nothing leaping out at you saying, “talk/write about me.”

Content block can happen to anyone, anytime, whether you’re a marketing expert, sales professional, small business owner, or C-level executive. Granted, if you work for a big company with its own marketing and communications team, or you outsource creative to an agency, you can turn to someone else when content block strikes. But if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur who both runs the business as well as markets it, where do you turn when the idea spigot runs dry?

BOM Audience Blog Graphic

Here are some “tried and true” ideas you can use to overcome content block and keep the ideas coming:

Generating/Capturing Ideas

  • How many times have you thought of some fantastic idea only to lose the notion later when you try to recall it? Problem solved: keep a journal, hand written or electronic (I use my smart phone and iPad to jot down notes). And many times, just the act of writing/typing something leads to additional ideas.
  • Think of some tip or “how to” advice your target audience needs or wants and that you can deliver, then write out the steps, such as “Ten steps to bringing your product to market.” It’s almost a sure thing that not only will you generate some good copy, but you’ll also spawn additional ideas.
  • Review a product—either yours or someone else’s you think your target audience is interested in: “I saw this product and here’s what I think…”
  • Conduct a Q&A interview with a well-known expert in your field. You know the saying, “guilt by association?” Well, I believe in “success by association.” Interview this expert and write about it. Now your target audience suddenly sees you operating in the same space as this well-known person.
  • Comment on something of relevance you’ve seen on YouTube, another Web site, in the news, etc. Discuss your reaction to it (positive or negative) and why your target audience should care.
  • Repurpose your own content by taking an excerpt from your existing presentations, articles, or books. This is a great way to update and get new life out of old content.
  • Relate a personal story or anecdote connected to your field of expertise, a “lesson learned” moment you want to share.
  • Make a “Top 10” list (or “Top 7” or “Top 5”), such as the “Top 5 reasons (xyz) happens” or the “Top 10 ways people use (your product).” Ranked lists are fun because they offer readers a chance to compare their rankings with yours, to validate their own thinking, or to open up discussion about what you’ve included vs. what they would have included.
  • Get great sales copy straight from your current customers and/or colleagues who know you well. Ask them either in-person (focus group) or through an electronic email or survey for verbatim comments so that you get a flavor of what people like about you and your product or service and how they might describe you to others. Often, you will find great language for sales and marketing copy—and at the very least, you will gain insight into what your target audience and colleagues perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses.

Developing Content

Blogs/Social Media

  • Readers of your blog or social media posts expect the writing to be informal and conversational. You’ll want to use proper English, but not be “stuffy.” Generally, you’ll want to write in first person (“I” and “You”) and speak to readers as though you are talking to them one-to-one.
  • Copy should be informational, not promotional. You also want to offer value to your readers, to position you/your company as credible expert in your particular field.
  • Try to stick to one topic per entry. For blogs, aim for 800 +/- words. For social media, entries should be MUCH shorter, preferably with a link to where a full story can be found.
  • Try to include pictures, video, or audio to add variety and to appeal to different learning/communications preferences.

Press Releases

  • News content should be objective, not promotional. Don’t just “news-ify” your advertising copy. Consider your audiences. Your first hurdle is the news editor. He or she must gauge whether what you are touting is newsworthy and of interest to his or her readers.
  • The first paragraph of your copy should tell the whole story. Concisely describe what’s happened, who’s involved, and the impact on readers, preferably in three sentences or less. The rest of the article can flesh out the story with details and quotes.

Web/Sales Copy/Presentations

  • Make an immediate emotional connection to your target audience. Speak to their “pain” or motivation—why they visited your Web site, picked up your brochure, or came to your presentation—and the need they want you to satisfy.
  • Help them “see” themselves—or who they want to become—in the words. Help them “see” the benefit (i.e. increase profits, save money, gain more clients, become more productive, etc.)
  • Demonstrate empathy—YOUR understanding of their needs, issues and wants (i.e. you’ve been there, you’ve already solved their challenge)
  • In one or two sentences, present YOURSELF as credible, citing relevant credentials, expertise, and experience. We’re not talking about including your CV here, but rather 2 or 3 relevant credentials, i.e. “nationally-known speaker and best-selling author.”
  • Make a “call to action.” Provide a simple low-risk, low-price way for your audience to connect with you: free e-newsletter, complimentary “get-to-know-you” session, low-cost product or service, or simply contacting you for more information.

How do you generate good content? From where do your ideas come?

Share your tips and techniques here, plus any lessons learned. Your monkey colleagues want to know!

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Saying No: It’s Harder than You Think

Do you have a hard time saying no?

Lots of people do, including me. It must have something to do with my entrepreneurial spirit or some fear that I’ll miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Or maybe I’ve just got this nurturing soul deep down inside that never wants to let anyone down . . . or maybe it’s a bit of all of these things, or something else altogether.

Funny thing is, people often tell me “no” and I rarely think twice about it. “No” is a fact of life. I accept it, and simply plan around the obstacle it presents. It’s no big deal and the planet doesn’t suddenly veer off course and crash into the sun, planes don’t fall from the sky, and the oceans don’t start to boil. In fact, the world keeps on spinning just fine, and somehow I get on with my life.

So what gives?


My guess is the inability to say “no” is quite common. A little visit with my good friend Google and I find lots and lots of scholarly articles on the topic, and lots of not-so-scholarly articles. In one of the former, Psychology Today calls people who never say no, “People Pleasers.”

I’m sure you know some (I do).

These are the friends or family members you can always count on to be there to help you get your work done, to help you move, to help make all the arrangements, and offer a shoulder to lean on.

Funny thing is, Psychology Today says this behavior can ultimately be unhealthy for you. After all, if you’re always busy pleasing others, what about your needs? Who’s taking care of you?

When you’re always catering to others, when do you ever have time for yourself, mentally or physically? You don’t exercise. You don’t get good sleep. You get distracted, trying to please everyone else and do what you need to do for yourself. Your work suffers. Your home life suffers. Your health suffers. Eventually, you begin to resent others who ask you to do things for them—your boss, your spouse, your partner, or the guy or gal next door.

We could all use a little trunk monkey . . . once in a while.

It’s amazing how much chaos a simple two-letter word—or lack thereof—can cause. I guess there’s a lot more to this never saying “no” thing than I imagined.

Here are other reasons people don’t say no:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of rejection
  • They don’t want to miss out
  • They don’t want to disappoint parents, spouses, siblings, friends, etc.
  • They fear failure, and saying no (in their minds) is the same as failing
  • They are prone to self-sacrifice—putting other’s needs ahead of their own
  • They are deferential to people in positions of authority

. . . and the list goes on.

I can remember how, when I was just starting out in my career, I felt as though I could never tell my bosses “no.” What would they think, that I’m some sort of slacker, that I’m not willing to give my all? “Sure I’ll stay late tonight?” I’d say or “You need that 300-page report by Monday? No sweat.”

I think we’ve all been there, and it smacks more of being a means of self-preservation (or job-preservation) rather than some deep-seated emotional issue. Similarly, in my entrepreneurial pursuits, especially early on, being a people pleaser was more about paying the bills than being submissive.

And yet, there is a lesson to be learned. When you say “yes” all the time, what does this tell others about you? Are you a pushover? Will they respect you? Will they respect your boundaries (if you even have any)? And what happens if you say “yes” to something, and then fail to deliver? Who’s to blame there?

At a minimum, if you never say “no,” you run the risk of wearing yourself to a frazzle. I know, I’ve been there. You try to do it all, but sometimes there’s just not enough time in the day or gas in the tank. Your productivity and creativity suffers, to say nothing of your typically cheery mood, and the quality of your work has nowhere to go but down.

Sometimes “no” is the best answer you can give someone, especially when you do it constructively and graciously. Don’t go overboard apologizing for why you can’t say “yes” at a particular moment in time, and never make excuses, but do make a point of thanking the person asking for your help for the opportunity, especially if it’s a client or work colleague. He or she will come away appreciating your honesty and candidness . . . and maybe, just maybe, next time you won’t have to say no because the person will have learned a little bit about your boundaries and you will have earned some respect. Sometimes pushing back can be the best thing for all involved.

What has been your experience saying “no?” Do you find it easy or is it difficult? How do you react when someone says “no” to you?

Share your thoughts here . . . and I won’t take no for an answer.

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Look Before You Leap (otherwise, how do you know you’re solving the right problem?)

Do you LEAP before you LOOK?

Chance are you don’t . . . and chances are you wouldn’t buy a new car or home or invest money without first doing your homework.

Why then do many agencies start with “how” a thing is going to be done before first fully understanding what it is you want or need to accomplish?

For many, it’s because they are all about selling the tactics—the “things” or services they perform as an agency—rather than focusing on what your goals are (or helping you determine what they should be).

At Barrel O’Monkeyz, we don’t think it should be that way—actually just the opposite!—and it seems we’re not alone. Albert Einstein was right about lots of things (see his quote below), and Honest Abe Lincoln was no slouch either (he of the famous, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” quote, among many). Who are we to argue with such smart thinkers?

From Branding to Design to Social Media and Digital Media, we get to know our customers, their needs, and the marketplace in which they operate before we discuss tactics. After all, what might be the right tactic for one business might not be the right one for another. We ASSESS, we PLAN, and then we ACT to support your goals.

This way the work we do tells your story, not ours; this way you engage your audience in a way that’s socially authentic and connects to them emotionally.


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Here’s the Problem . . .

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s recent comment, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess,” pretty much sums up the news these days. Seems like every potential hotspot, from the Middle East, to the Ukraine, to western US wildfires, are heating up . . . or worse.

This got me to thinking about how we react to problems when they arise. Some try to avoid them, some try to explain them away, and others tackle them head on.

I wrote a blog about problem solving a couple of years ago. While its focus was on problem solving of a much more personal, professional, and limited nature than world affairs, I think there the article still contains some sage advice, especially step 1, which is to be willing and able to recognize and admit a problem exists. Only then can we evaluate and diagnose what to do, before we set out to take corrective action.

Here is that blog again. May it help you solve a problem or two in your own corner of the world! Enjoy.

BOM - Admit Problem Exists

Problem Solving 101

(Originally posted on August 2, 2012)

Encountering a problem is not always the end of the world. Sure, it’s likely we’ll all encounter a catastrophic situation at some point in our lives, but by and large, our day-to-day business and personal problems can be managed and overcome. It’s how we react to these challenges that quite often determines success or failure.

What do you think the outcome would have been for our Apollo 13 astronauts had they failed to respond adequately when an oxygen tank exploded on their way to the moon back in 1970? While they had to abort the lunar landing, the entire crew returned safely to Earth. With some quick thinking and a planful approach to diagnosing the problem and their ways to overcome it, “Houston, we’ve had a problem” turned into “Houston, we’ve solved our problem” and a happy ending.

  • When a problem arises in your life, how do you react? When a relationship hits rough water, what do you do—shutdown and retreat, or do you thoughtfully look at the issues and attempt to fix them?
  • What about your business? If profits are down, do you just keep on doing the same thing, hoping the problem fixes itself, or do you diagnose what’s going wrong and put together a plan to fix it?

A lot of times I think we avoid our problems because it just seems easier to ignore them, hoping they’ll go away, and also because we fear failure. After all, if we attempt to fix a problem and it doesn’t work out—Ouch!—nothing hurts more. But choosing NOT to address a problem, in my book, is no different than failing to solve it. The problem persists, weighing you down, sapping your energy and enthusiasm. Addressing a problem, even if you fail, does at least one thing—it allows you to let go and move on.

  • When a problem arises for me, whether it’s personal or professional, the first thing I need to do is recognize and admit the problem exists (and that’s not always easy for this King Monkey to do!). The last thing any of us wants to do in either a relationship or with our businesses is admit there’s a problem. We all like to think we live “problem free” lives!
  • Once I’ve accepted there’s a problem, the next thing I do is evaluate and diagnose it. Just what is the nature of this problem? Is it a people/personnel issue, a product/service issue, a process issue, or is it some or all of these factors combined? (I tend to believe all problems can be looked at through the lens of each of these three factors.)

For example, a relationship issue might be simply that two people just aren’t right for each other (a personal issue) or it might be a “Mars vs. Venus” situation where what’s needed is a basic understanding that we all communicate a little differently (a process issue).

Similarly, if your marketing attempts are falling to connect with your audience, maybe it’s simply a matter of you and your team (personal/personnel) needing to understand the relationship of your customers and your product better (a product/service issue) and retooling your message (a process issue).

How many monkeyz does it take to … ?

“Chimpanzee Problem Solving through Cooperation”
  • Now comes the fun part—developing a treatment plan for how I’m going to solve or lessen the problem. This step is fun because I get to exercise my creative thinking muscles, but it’s also challenging. Just because you’ve diagnosed a problem doesn’t mean your action plan to fix it will be as successful as you want or need it to be (just look at our nation’s capital for an example of that). Life isn’t like a TV show where some hero is going to rush in and save the day. Further, there isn’t always a solution to every problem. Some things can’t be solved—at least not always to our satisfaction. But every problem can be addressed. Every problem can be identified, evaluated, diagnosed, and attempts made to solve it.

When we problem-solve, we might not always get exactly what we want or need, but how we react to problems—that we actually react, rather than simply avoiding them, hoping they go away—can teach us a lot about ourselves, what’s important, and how we respond under pressure.

What problems have you had to solve recently? What problems—personal or business-related—need your attention right now?

As a starter, try stepping back and evaluating your situation objectively. Then try one or two things—small things, big things, you be the judge—that move you and the situation forward. Feel that? That’s the burden you’ve been carrying lifting off your shoulders. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Share your problem-solving successes and “lessons learned” here.

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The Business Development Funnel

Are you operating at your full sales potential?

Business Development is all about identifying the right target audience for your product or service and building strong relationships to understand and meet client needs. In Business Development parlance, we know this as the “Sales Funnel.”

Into your “Sales Funnel” go all your prospects—and through relationship building, positioning, and delivering on your brand promise, out of the spout come loyal clients.

It’s a pretty simple formula, really, but of course the monkey is in the details of how best to move from “Prospecting” to “Cultivating” to “Positioning” to “Closing” . . . and at Barrel O’Monkeyz working the details and getting results is what we call fun!


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Rounding Out Your Inner Circle

The life of an entrepreneur or small business owner is often times a lonely island. You’re usually at work long before anyone else arrives and you stay long after others go home—and that’s if you’re fortunate enough to have a team working with you. Many times, entrepreneurs work alone. They are their Accountant, IT specialist, Chief Marketing Officer, CEO, and Head Groundskeeper all rolled into one.

So where do solo-entrepreneurs go when they need feedback to a business challenge or opportunity? Where do they turn to bounce their business ideas off the proverbial wall?

If you work for a large company or own your own, you’re typically surrounded by talented colleagues who make up your department or division or the entire organization. You think nothing of picking up the phone, shooting off an email, calling a meeting, or wandering down the hall to get insight from trusted confidantes, mentors, or advisors on topics big and small that impact your business and sometimes even your personal life. Finding a willing ear and someone with sage advice to share is no big deal.

BOM Life of Entrepreneur

But where can you turn when you’re the top dog of your own one-person team? Who can you rely on when you need that willing, well-tuned ear . . . and there’s simply nobody there?

Long-time readers of this blog know that I often stress the need to network, Network, NETWORK (shall I say it again?). Now, when we think of networking, we often think of it as a way to grow business opportunities and stay in touch and attuned to our respective industries—and you won’t hear me argue either of those points—but you can also use networking to grow a trusted inner circle of colleagues with whom you feel comfortable sharing information and seeking advice. Sure, you may run into issues of proprietary information and the occasional conflict of interest, but if you choose your inner circle wisely, and are willing to give advice as well as get it, you might be surprised at the generous nature of your fellow entrepreneurs. After all, many of them find themselves in the same boat as you.

Networking “Kids in the Hall” Style

You won’t want to include just anyone in your inner circle. Too much feedback can be just as difficult as too little, especially if the source hasn’t been vetted. Just as you would if you worked for the same organization under the same roof, include only those individuals you know you can trust, whose opinions you value, and who tend to share your professional and personal values. They are the ones most likely to provide the kind of counsel you seek.

Consider these ideas on how you might round out your “inner circle:”

  • If you’re new to an area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce for leads to local networking opportunities.
  • Check online for business associations, peer groups, or mentoring organizations in your area. Participating in one or more of these groups can be a boon to your business and to your relationship-building efforts.
  • Check with your nearest University. They often have alumni groups that sponsor networking events, or may have ties to business incubators or start-up groups.
  • Volunteer to become a mentor to other business owners. You’ll not only become a key resource to them, but you’ll begin to cultivate important relationships and contacts.
  • Scour the likes of www.LinkedIn.com or other online venues such as www.meetup.com for networking events in your area, or online.
  • Join or start a networking group online through www.LinkedIn.com or even www.facebook.com. You might be pleasantly surprised at the number and quality of connections you generate.
  • Don’t forget your past confidantes. Remember those folks you turned to for advice in a past career? Chances are they’re still around. Seek them out. They will probably be more than happy to impart some advice, let alone rekindle your acquaintance.
  • Consider bouncing ideas off your spouse or significant other, or a close friend. He or she will often have a unique slant on your situation, plus will have the advantage of knowing you, your likes and dislikes, and your strengths and weaknesses, better than most.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget those most responsible for your success: your clients. Identify a handful of your most trusted clients—your biggest fans—and turn to them for their advice. Invite them to lunch or for coffee, or call or email them. They may be flattered you consider their input valuable.

Here are some of the groups I belong to:

As a solo-entrepreneur or small business owner, you don’t have to and you shouldn’t try to conduct business in a vacuum. Business is about people, relationships, and meeting needs. Holed up in your own office and in your own head, trying to ask as well as to answer all the questions, can become a recipe for business failure.

How do you get the feedback you need or want? How have you developed your inner circle? Have you participated in networking groups or associations? What’s worked or hasn’t worked?

Share your experiences here.

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Heard Any Good (Brand) Stories Lately?

Success comes from being able to tell the story of your brand and engage audiences in ways that are creative, non-intrusive, and fun.

Below is how we tell our brand story at Barrel O’Monkeyz.

As our name suggests, we are energetic, nimble, and don’t believe business has to be stuffy to be effective. Our formula for success is simple:

More Creativity + More Ideas = More Fun . . . or positive results.

What might your brand story say?

Tell it well and you’ll connect with customers on a personal level that drives the business results you want.

Now that’s what we call fun! 

BOM Telling Your Story InfoGraphic

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New Tools, Same Fundamentals

Time and time again I am struck by how new technologies and new ways of communicating tend to make some of us think certain “old ways” of doing things are no longer useful, especially when it comes to marketing.

Sure, the rotary phone and telegraph have gone the way of homing pigeons and the pony express as we’ve moved on to tweets and texts and status updates. Heck, even email is feeling a bit long in the tooth these days. But the reality is each of the aforementioned are simply the tools we use to reach our target audiences.

Think of how we build houses these days. We may use newfangled materials, pneumatic nailers, and all sorts of space age adhesives, but the fundamental concept remains the same: you start from the bottom up, the foundation to the roof.

BOM House

And so it remains with marketing. What worked before in terms of identifying our target audiences, determining their pain points—the reasons they need our product or service—and describing how we can best meet their needs, remains as important today as it did 5, 10, or 50 years ago! It’s simply the delivery methods—the tools we use to engage our audiences—that have changed.

A few Decembers back, just before the holidays, I wrote a blog with some tips on segmenting target audiences in these days of social media. It was based on Tim Templeton’s work, Referral of a Lifetime. The season may have changed—it’s summer after all—but his sage advice remains spot on. So, enjoy this bit of holiday gifting . . . in July!

Social Media: Segment Your Way to Better Results

(Originally Posted on December 20, 2011)

WOW! 10,000 followers and counting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn . . . 50,000 likes! It’s fantastic, right? But what does it all mean? How can you leverage your followers/social media community effectively? How do you get action, results?

I recently asked my social media community for help. It was interesting to see who viewed my request and who took action. Initially, I took the less than emphatic response by some a bit personally, especially with how much help I tend to give others. But then I got to thinking, “Maybe I am going about this all wrong. Maybe my message and my approach was wrong for the audience.”

While I could start by telling you to develop an overall strategy with clear goals and measurable objectives for your social media efforts, you probably already know that. Goals and objectives are important, but how do you translate them into functional strategies?

We may take the time to build our networks, some of us by one hand shake and one banana at a time, other’s by acquiring followers through less personal means, such as “like me,” “follow me,” “fan me,” and so on. But do we really ever get to know our followers—who they are, why they’re following us, what they hope to get out of the relationship? It’s important. Why? Because knowing who your followers are and why they follow you is critical to successful communication with them. It’s as simple as marketing “101”—know your audience and target messages to them appropriately to get the results you want.

Many social media sites allow you to customize lists for followers vs. friends to a degree, but even that can be misleading and not garner desired results. So here is my holiday gift to you: if you haven’t already, try to get your hands on a simple, yet fantastic, book called Referral of a Lifetime (http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Referral_of_a_Lifetime.html?id=3faLB2mY18AC ).

In this book, author Tim Templeton recommends that you divide your network, not by school, work setting, church, social group, etc., but into four distinct segments using these three criteria:

  1. People who understand what you do
  2. People who understand how to help you
  3. People who want to help you

Group A = People who meet ALL of the above criteria
Group B = People who meet 2 of the 3 criteria
Group C = People who meet 1 of the 3 criteria
Group D = People who meet 0 of the 3 criteria

After segmenting your groups, simply get rid of all people in Group D (at least figuratively, in the social media sense!). When it comes to communication strategies, these people are wasting your time.

Now create your communication strategy. Focus most of your efforts on Group A because that’s where you’ll find the majority of your results. Next focus on Group B. While it will take some effort, you can educate members of Group B and convert them into “A”s over time.  As for Group C, they get holiday cards. The time and effort you spend with them may one day make them Group B members, but for now your time is better spent on Groups A and B.

Now, if you’re not comfortable segmenting your followers like this, you need to start thinking like an HR person sorting a stack of resumes. All you’re doing is dividing them into three piles: A, B and C, where Group C goes into the circular file (trash) and Group B seldom gets touched.

While it may sound simple (because it is!), there’s lots more good stuff in Templeton’s book designed to get you over the hump and focus your social media monkey chatter. You just might be amazed how directing your time and energies to where it matters most will not only improve results but also lift your spirits.

What gift can you give the Barrel O’ Monkeyz community? Share ways can you apply this approach to your communications strategy and tell us how you make out.

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Cold Calling Know How

Do you dread cold calling? Do you wonder if it’s just a waste of time?

Don’t toss cold calling out of your marketing tool kit just yet. Even in this day of digital and social media, some traditional techniques never get old. When done right—when done with purpose, authenticity, and targeted at the right audience for your offer—cold calling opens many doors that otherwise might stay closed.

So if you’re looking for creative ways to connect with your audience, cold calling may be just the idea you need to get the results you want . . . and at Barrel O’Monkeyz getting results is what we call fun!

BOM - Effective Cold Calling Infographic

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